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Fear God and Fear Thou Not

Written by Mark Irby


We’ve all been afraid at some point in our lives. It is a fact more difficult for some to admit than others. Depending on your background and culture, it is quite possible you were taught that being afraid is not an option, especially for boys or men. Whether it was facing a bully in a fight, or taking on a dangerous adventure, you were ridiculed if you showed any signs of fear. More often than not, your fears were manifested in anxiety that would cause sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, and an overall paralysis that obscured your ability to think straight. In certain situations, illness would be the result, whether nausea and a loss of appetite or some other feeling of unwellness.  If your journey, past or present, fits this description, you are not alone. And while many who encouraged the idea of showing strength in every circumstance may have been well-meaning, they were often misguided. Too often, the expectation was that in the place of fear, you should “stop being so scared”, or “just be a man”. And yet in many instances, true examples of how to be a man were lacking. Strangely enough, it was far more acceptable to be angry than it was to be afraid. Both emotions if not promptly given over to God are hazardous to one’s health, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Two definitions of fear according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary are:

1. an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger

2. reason for alarm: DANGER

Based on these definitions, it is worth pointing out that having a healthy awareness of danger to avoid it is good and necessary. On the other hand, and as is more prominently the case, the presence of fear that leads to a disorder of our thoughts and causes us to make rash decisions is a threat to our well-being and more importantly is a symptom of a deeper issue.

The Bible is clear that there is a type of fear that has no legitimate place in our lives. The Apostle Paul, when writing to his protégé Timothy declared:

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 

– 2 Timothy 1:7

This very powerful scripture suggests that the presence of the spirit of deilia (Greek for fear), means the absence of 3 very beautiful and important attributes:

1. Power

2. Love

3. A Sound Mind

Indeed when you are afraid, you feel powerless and even out of your mind, those emotions ultimately being brought on by a lack of love, perfect love. Notice 1 John 4:18,

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

What another profound statement! Our Savior and co-Creator Jesus set the perfect example while on this earth. He loved and will always love perfectly! He was the perfect embodiment of his Father whom the apostle John declared is love (1 John 4:8).

We read of an even more stirring account of God’s tender love and compassion from the prophet Isaiah’s pen:

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

– Isaiah 41:10

I find extraordinary comfort in that passage. And yet, even in my own life, I find that certain circumstances arise and I seem to quickly forget this beautiful promise. Whether it is uncharted territory or familiar terrain, there are moments when my heart is gripped with fear, frozen in uncertainty. I believe I am safe in speaking universally that no one likes to be afraid. No one looks forward to being anxious or fearful of anything or anyone. But the question is, why do some of us seem to stay on this roller coaster of peace and fear? When I have lost my focus- my compass, these testing moments often remind me that I have allowed too much distance to form between myself and God.

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Going back to 1 Tim 1:7, the spirit of fear is not something God gives us. On the contrary, Satan is pleased to offer us that spirit and then pretends to come to our rescue with a solution equally as dangerous, all the while standing back and mocking us.

But I thank God for Jesus! When I, like Peter walking on water, take my eyes from the Savior and place them on the foreboding surroundings, Jesus stretches forth His hand and catches me! And then He asks me like He did Peter, “…O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” – Matthew 14:31

The question is for all of us to ponder, “Wherefore do we doubt?”

The answer is simple yet seemingly elusive. As pointed out earlier, the key to casting out fear is perfect love. So let’s drop our anchor there and dive deeper.

Remember the title, Fear God and Fear Thou Not. I submit to you that possessing perfect love begins with another type of fear. Notice how the word "fear" is used in Exodus 18 when Moses was receiving counsel from his father-in-law Jethro:

“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness…” – Exodus 18:21

Not only is fear used in a positive sense here as in many other Bible passages, but it is also clearly connected to the hatred of covetousness or in a broader sense, a hatred of sin. In this case, the Hebrew word, yārē', signifies heartfelt reverence. For those needing a more contemporary definition, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary adds to the previous two definitions of fear we looked at, a third entry:

3) profound reverence and awe especially toward God

The fear of God being synonymous with hating sin is further proven by the wise man Solomon:

“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” – Proverbs 8:13

David also understood this connection when he declared:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” – Psalms 111:10. Here we see that the fear of the Lord is attached to the keeping of His commandments. And to bring it full circle, we notice that Jesus himself said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” – John 14:15. Put simply, the deeper our reverence for God, the closer we come to loving perfectly as He does. Some of the worst fear and torment come from disobedience, which is exploited by the enemy who suggests to us that God cannot and will not accept us after sinning yet again! To that point, might I suggest that people are not so much afraid of listening and surrendering to God as they are of the thought that God does not hear them when they pray? I think it's about time that we Fear God and Fear Not.

I leave you with 1 John 4:16,17:

“And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.”    Fear God and Fear Thou Not!

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